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ASU Football: Arizona experts talk success of Arizona’s season, score prediction for Territorial Cup

The team down south has experienced the same growing of a new coach and are now ranked No.15 having defeated four top-25 opponents this season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 18 Oregon at Arizona State Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

While Kenny Dillingham and Arizona State are going through growing pains of the first seasons together, Arizona experienced the same tribulations in 2021 with Jedd Fisch. After a frustrating first season and 1-11 record with a loss to Northern Arizona, Fisch has now guided the Wildcats to No. 15 in the country while taking down four top-25 opponents in 2023.

Arizona State and Dillingham are on the same track, says Brian Pedersen of House of Sparky’s sister site, AZ Desert Swarm. While on opposite ends of the spectrum this season, it all comes down to hAte week in Tempe.

Here is what Brian had to say:

Arizona’s growth this season as surpassed many who haven’t been following the program. Could you have predicted this success this season and what is the overall vibe in Tucson?

All indications were this team was going to be better than a year ago, based on the talent upgrade on defense and the returning weapons on offense. But that realistically only seemed like going from 5-7 to 6-6, maybe 7-5. Anyone who legitimately thought 8-3 and still alive for the Pac-12 title game going into the final week of the regular season is lying.

Because of this, the vibe around the program is the strongest it’s been in almost a decade. It was close to this when Kevin Sumlin was hired and was inheriting Khalil Tate, but we saw how well that went.

Coach Kenny Dillingham has been facing a lot into his first season, from the bowl ban to injuries, to Ray Anderson resigning, and the fans are a bit impatient for success. What has the process been like for the Wildcat fanbase under Jedd Fisch and what has been his philosophy through the years of building the program?

I see a lot of similarities between what ASU is going through this season and what Arizona endured in 2021, which the program refers to as ‘Year Zero’ because of the need to rebuild from the ground up. Jedd Fisch repeatedly mentioned that all season, and even into the following year, that this was going to take time, and there was certainly plenty of doubt during a 1-11 run that included a loss to NAU, but that may have actually helped him drive home how much work there was to do.

Signing the best recruiting class in school history despite that terrible first season certainly helped smooth things along, as did focusing on improving the offense the first offseason. This past offseason it was the defense’s turn and the results have been tremendous.

Arizona has the opposite problem that ASU is facing, having two great quarterbacks in Jayden de Laura and Noah Fifita. Fifita stepped up when Laura went down and played as if he were the starter. What is the future for both QB’s in Tucson? Will de Laura remain the starter into 2024, and if so, will Fifita transfer?

It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Jayden de Laura transfers for his final season of eligibility, since Noah Fifita has clearly supplanted him as the starter despite Fisch never officially saying as much. Fifita was recruited specifically for this offense, as was true freshman Brayden Dorman and 2024 commit Demond Williams Jr.

De Laura was a necessary addition to bridge that gap, and while Arizona was perfectly fine with him being the starter for 2-3 years I think they always wanted Fifita or another recruit to ascend to that spot.

Arizona is now ranked 15 and bowl eligible, what bowl do you hope to play in and how confident is the program/fan base in potentially playing for the Pac-12 championship with Oregon and Washington?

Selfishly, I want the Alamo Bowl because I was already going to San Antonio to visit family over the holidays, and that looks to be one of the most likely options, though Holiday Bowl would be fine as well. Fiesta is in play with a Pac-12 title.

As for getting into that championship game, Oregon State has to win Friday at Oregon or the Territorial Cup result won’t matter. Every UA fan is going to be a Beaver Believer on Black Friday.

What can ASU do you play upset at home vs No. 15 Arizona? Both sides of the ball for the Wildcats seems to be solid, especially the offense that blew Utah out, what should the Sun Devils do to keep the game close? Score prediction?

Control the clock for as much as possible and get a turnover or two. Be aggressive and play like a team that has nothing to play for other than to ruin their rival’s day.

As much as Arizona fans will want to see the score get run up to avenge 70-7, I see this playing out more like the 2021 game where the shorthanded team hung around for a little bit but didn’t have enough for the long haul.

Let’s go with 30-16 Arizona.